Category Archives: business

2014 SETsquared Student Enterprise Awards

The SETsquared Student Enterprise awards took place at University of Exeter on 5 June; Innovation Centre Business Support Manager Joe Pearce went to the awards ceremony and has written this blog about the ceremony.

The University of Exeter played host to invited special guests, staff and students from the SETsquared partnership to celebrate the best enterprise activity from across the five Universities.

The event was a chance for everyone to recognise the great work done by the staff who support student and graduate entrepreneurs and also to celebrate the best businesses which have spun out of SETsquared in the last year.

The Exeter delegation.
Image courtesy of Exeter Students’ Guild.

The evening started with the usual networking and catching up with colleagues and friends from the different Universities, but there was also a chance for the student and graduate businesses who had been nominated for awards to exhibit what they had been up to. Every guest was given a ping pong ball and asked to drop it into the vase for the business they thought best, with the winner being given the “Peoples’ Choice” award later in the evening.

It is always great at this event to hear from the guest speakers and this year was no different, with Phil Cameron, Exeter alum and Founder of No 1 Traveller delivering the keynote. Phil‘s background was in theatre, having graduated in Drama – he is an Olivier & Tony award winning producer! – and he has been able to take the lessons learned in that tough sector and transfer them into his new business. As Phil pointed out, the key to his, and indeed most businesses, is in understanding what your customers want and making sure they get it – hopefully lessons which the budding entrepreneurs in the audience were taking on board!

And so to the awards.

Awards

Each Uni had the opportunity to recognise the invaluable work done by students and mentors who they work with to encourage, nurture and support entrepreneurship, and it is great to be able to publicly thank those who offer so much.

But the awards which really count are those which are voted for, and the judges decisions were…

Dave Jarman and his team at University of Bristol once again showed that they are leading the way in Enterprise Education, with their Spark event picking up the award for “Best Student Experience” for the second year running.

Tiqa Adinin from University of Southampton won the Social Enterprise Award for the incredible work which she has done with her business SanEco, impacting on some 11,000 people in Kenya with products and services to improve sanitary conditions and drive social change through entrepreneurship. It is another great example of how Enactus projects can spinout and take on a life of their own.

But the big winners of the night were the University of Exeter, picking up three awards. Tickbox won both the Best Student Start-Up and the Peoples’ Choice Award for the work they are doing to change the way people interact with democracy, helping them to understand which candidate in an election best represents their views.

Award winning team Tickbox with Ben Bradshaw MP and VIP guest Phil Cameron.
Image courtesy of Exeter Students’ Guild

Launched for the Euro elections in May, Tickbox attracted over 40,000 unique visitors in the days before the election. They are now getting set up to tackle the general election next year, so watch this space.

Also from Exeter and winning the Best Graduate Start up award, were Instabear. Having started as a service to print your instagram photos, the Instabear team have moved into events, providing the link between social reach and real physical interaction by offering their live photo printing service to clients such as Jaguar Land Rover, Jack Wills and Ford.

Next year promises to be a big year for them as they look to grow and establish themselves with more international clients. Also, you might be seeing much more of founder, Solly Akhtar, who is currently involved in a secret project you will hear more of later this year!

All in all a fun night, congrats to the winners, hard luck to those who walked away empty handed but do stick with your businesses because there were some great ones there.

I’m already looking forward to next year and seeing if Exeter can make it three big years in a row – but I know the teams at the other unis will have something say about it.

Also, looking forward to Uni Pop Shop  – check it out and make sure you drop in if you are in London at the end of the month.

Why is London so dominant in the UK?

BBC reporter and economist Evan Davis came to the university as part of the SEE Talks; a student run organisation to bring speakers to the university. BSci Maths and Finance student Alex Crosby was there…

SEE Talks are a series of talks about macroeconomic issues and their wider influence in the world. As part of this, BBC presenter and Economist Evan Davis came to the University of Exeter to discuss “Why is London so dominant in the UK?

Evan Davis is an economist, journalist and presenter

It seems London’s size is unique in the UK and growing every year; its size draws in new workers, increasing the size and bringing in more workers. This cycle has encouraged a vast amount of investment into London, both domestic and foreign, bringing about new infrastructures and projects within the city. Yet some worry that whilst London is thriving other areas of the UK are being neglected and that in fact we should halt investment in London and use it in other parts of the country. But is this efficient?

Glomeration

Hours worked in London are 29 per cent higher than the UK average and their productivity is the highest out of all UK cities. This highlights the benefits that London, as a glomeration, has on the UK’s economy. Glomerations are the idea that taking 15 per cent of the population and squeezing it into a small area makes them more productive. It explores the benefits gained from condensing people together such as information overspill from neighbours, collaboration and competition, increasing overall output. The idea that neighbours help is widely held, and so we see many businesses locating themselves next to companies they believe will help their productivity. This can be seen in Silicon Valley, Canary Warf and Salford Quays, to name a few.

This ignites the idea that we should focus on a second city in the UK, whilst London specialises in Financial Services the other could specialise in another sector. Evan then brought up the idea of connecting the larger cities in the north to create this ‘second city’. Yet to achieve this we would need a lot of time and investment into their infrastructure. It would also involve many businesses having to relocate and merge to eliminate the spread and create specialised hubs. He explores this idea more in his mini series ‘Mind The Gap’.

Investment

In the Q&A portion of the talk Evan was asked who he believed would need to lead this change. The government could implement rules and restriction, as they did when they restricted office builds in Birmingham, but businesses may not relocate to where the government aimed them. All in all, it is investment which will spark this process and so we either need to encourage foreign investment into other locations, or relocate investment from London.

He was also asked if our continental colleagues experience the same issue. France experiences the same issue with Paris, but Germany has many large cities all specialising in different areas. However, this is due to each of the countries history. When Germany was split up, each sector had a dominant city which produce most of their output, so when Germany was unified it already had the infrastructure to lay way for  the economy they have today.

To summarise, Evan believed that although London’s success can be addictive we must ensure that we offer choices. That people can choose to live in the hustle and bustle of a city or in the quaint splendor of the countryside.

Not a smarter workplace, but a smarter worker

Craig Knight is Director of Identity Realization Limited and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Exeter.

How would you measure productivity in an accounts office, an HR office or University Admin building? Think for a minute. How would you?

Since Identity Realisation started at the University of Exeter over a decade ago we have established specific metrics that explore well-being, psychological comfort and productivity. As far as we know this is unique.

Our commercial research uses science not heuristic. Impartiality is vital so that we can make informed comments based on evidence. This all may seem obvious written in a university context but when you consider that Mark Dixon (Regus) is one of several senior business leaders on record as saying that he hopes that a measure of productivity will be discovered in his lifetime you may just develop an inkling that it is rule of thumb and precedent — not science — that dominates office design and its management. We are hopefully making some difference.

For example, evidence overwhelmingly suggests that a minimalist, spartan ‘lean’ office is simply bad news on all measures. Lean is currently the ‘go to’ condition for the majority of low-status office workers. No animal thrives in a spartan space for long, be that a caterpillar in a five-year-old’s jam jar or a gorilla in a lifeless zoo.

Open plan office

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We are no different. Every measure of performance and happiness is depressed in a flat open office where managerial systems and clean desk policies hold sway.
Published data can demonstrate how a rich design template such as those employed at Google or Microsoft has ― over the past ten years at any rate ― always been quantifiably and significantly better than a lean equivalent. However, we can also show that rich, topical design does not provide optimal working conditions.

In short, design does not live up to its promise. Companies spend considerable amounts of money installing slides between floors, planting indoor beer gardens and setting swinging ski gondolas in their canteens, but they really need not bother.
The results are bad news for designers and managers. Human beings are not rational. We prefer being given the freedom to develop our own – to the outside observer – less attractive office to any magnificent space imposed through managerial largesse.

The published evidence indicates that the best offices recognise elements of our own identity; they should not therefore reflect the stamp of the designer or commissioning director. So if we can see a few plants that we chose, a souvenir from our holiday, or a picture that means something to us, then these are the things that create spaces that are more psychologically comfortable than anything a talented designer can create.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

This means that our less than perfect space will outperform the Googleplex just as surely the Googleplex outperforms the stark lean building. As a participant put it very succinctly “Well of course, I mean who wants to live in a bloody show home?”

However, we can do better still. Organisations resolutely believe in imperfect ‘design led office solutions’. Try putting the term into a search engine and check the results. However our latest research does indicate that ‘led design’ will create most interesting results. A more submissive approach to office development is paying early dividend.

This psychological application of design may bash a few egos by putting the designers’ cart behind the organisation’s horse power, namely its people. Yet in so doing we seem to be harnessing the latent talent of the design process. Thus rather than seeing aesthetically pleasing spaces as pleasant milestones passed en route to more effective working environments we are instead finding the benefits of design that have been claimed by its creators but are – as yet — unrealised.

And in closing, here is one final nugget. The Psychology Department has worked extensively with older adults in care. In the same way that better respected office workers operate in more considered workspace designed by others, so older adults live in attractively designed spaces over which they too have had little control.

We gave older adults the power to develop at least part of their own living spaces. As a consequence they not only felt better and identified more with the home and its residents, but their cognitive engagement scores increased by 19 per cent. That is they performed 19% better on intelligence tests. They were 19 per cent cleverer. It seems only right to take this work back into the workspace.

We are running a study at Clerkenwell Design Week (20th to 22nd May) where we will look to roll these factors together to see whether the psychological application of design has the potential to increase cognitive performance at work. Currently a smart space is simply one that squeezes eight people into a space originally developed for twelve; but what if it were possible to develop a space that makes people perform at a higher cognitive level; a space where they are effectively cleverer as well as happier and more productive? The initial signs are very promising. We’ll let you know.

Cornwall’s new status shows how regionalism is changing nation states everywhere

This blog by Politics Lecturer Dr Joanie Willett first appeared in The Conversation.

By Joanie Willett, University of Exeter

Here’s a question: what do Cornwall, Scotland, Venice and Sardinia have in common? The answer: they all have vocal political movements calling for either independence from their nation states or at least some form of autonomy.

Most people in the UK are aware of the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence; Venice recently voted overwhelmingly for independence in an unofficial referendum, and Sardinian pro-independence parties have recently doubled their vote share. Now Cornwall has, after many years of campaigning, been granted national minority status by the European Framework Convention for the protection of national minorities.

We are seeing an explosion of national or independence movements across Europe. What this means for governance and statehood here in the UK is yet to be seen – but the case of Cornwall can help us find an answer.

It’s easy to see why the people of Cornwall are so proud of their identity. Cornwall is a beautiful place with a lively and vibrant arts scene, a global presence in environmental research, a world class marine sector, and a mining school that produces world-leading graduates. Cornwall also has a proud history as one of the centres of the British industrial revolution, spawning some of Britain’s most important engineers – such as Richard Trevithick, inventor of the first working steam locomotive. More recently, researchers in Cornwall have pioneered geothermal power.

It is also hard to miss the strength and pride in Cornishness in a region where to use the word “county” is deeply political, and where “Cornish not English” t-shirts are readily available. Indeed, even the tourist information organisation “Visit Cornwall” uses “Duchy” instead to avoid offence. Road-signs are often bilingual Cornish/English, the Cornish Nationalist political party Mebyon Kernow contribute a strong voice to the local agenda, and symbolism associated with Cornish nationalism is used to decorate shops, advertise local products, and to form part of the regional brand.

This latter point is crucial for understanding Cornish nationalism’s growing ability to make its voice heard on the broader stage.

Regional powerhouse

Economic development and Cornish cultural heritage are inextricably tied together. Cornwall Council’s latest statement on local development is an Economic and Culture strategy (my italics); this has been the case across economic development plans since at least the 1999 Objective 1 Single Programming Document, which set out what the region was going to do with extra support and funding from the EU. Before this, culture and economy were usually seen as two distinct entities.

They have now become deeply entwined – and this isn’t just a Cornish issue. Michael Keating of the University of Aberdeen has argued this stems from a shift in the global economy, which asks “regions” to compete with other regions. This requires regional differentiation, or “branding” – which of course, appeals to regional identities. Many studies have argued that effective regional brands need to match the identities of ordinary citizens, rather than the criteria of marketing bods in boardrooms.

This is not to overlook the fact that many devolutionist or seccesionist campaigns are framed in terms of economic and political exploitation, where the region in question seeks redress for real or perceived neglect by the “core” of the nation state. Cornwall, Scotland, and Wales are no exceptions; each claim that their own unique circumstances are neglected by Westminster, that their voices are marginalised in the British debate, and that devolution or independence is the only way to ameliorate this.

The minority nations of the UK may well have a point. Certainly in Cornwall’s case, Cornish MP Matthew Taylor’s parliamentary question about the region’s poverty and desperation in the 1990s met with the answer that the region got quite enough support already. At the same time, the European Union was recognising Cornwall as one of the poorest regions of Europe, offering it financial help from Brussels.

Regional differentiation, not only encouraged but required by the global economy, provides a space for disaffection to operate. By becoming a central plank of the Cornish economy, Cornish identity has been woven into the fabric of people’s lives, rather than being the hobby horse of a few crazy activists. Indeed, throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s, local campaigners were gripped by the fear that Cornish identity was dying out. Instead, it has grown and grown – and the fundamental role it plays in the economy is directly responsible.

So what does Cornwall’s new recognition mean for the UK? Firstly, expect to hear a lot more about Cornwall and its identity. Expect too that the well-supported campaign for a Cornish Assembly (just like the one in Wales) will continue, grow, and amplify in the coming years. It will become ever more insistent if Scotland does vote for independence in September, something which of course would trigger a vigourous discussion about the constitutional order of the UK as a whole.

Regional identity is not going away, neither in Cornwall, nor elsewhere in the UK or in Europe. We are going to see many more assertions of regional difference in coming years, and we need a solid debate about the relationship between the nation state and the regions. How can the British state incorporate a multiplicity of nations within its borders? Does this require a shift towards a more open and federal system, or does it instead signal the death of the nation state?

As the growth in Cornwall’s identity and national pride shows, these questions will have to be answered.

The Conversation

Joanie Willett does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Read the original article.

Head of HSBC Commercial Banking talks to students

Carol Bagnald , Head of Commercial Banking, HSBC London, came to the university as part of the SEE Talks; a student run organisation to bring speakers to the university. BSci Maths and Finance student Alex Crosby was there…

Carol was the second speaker in the SEETalks series, and came with the aim of discussing the changing nature of business relating to dynamical shifts in the female economy. However, her talk became much more than that –  a discussion on corporate ethics and internal structures, the youth economy and which industries will be growing the fastest.

Carol raised some interesting examples of the shifting dynamics of business. Women are the key purchasers in the automobile industry, surprisingly. From our own research, we already knew the example of Harley Davidson, where 25 per cent of sales are now to women – and Harley have responded by manufacturing more ergonomic seats. This certainly is in contrast to the failed DELL products aimed at women –  it just shows making a laptop pink won’t sell it to women!

Businesses need to really understand their customers – and Carol argues the only way to do this is to change a business internally first. Carol raised the interesting example of Dulux, who teamed with a well-known cosmetic brand, in order to incorporate changing dynamics into their workforce and to better understand their customer base, which is predominantly female. This has been a great success.

Carol stated that whilst the male work force is decreasing by 10 per cent, the female is increasing by 7 per cent. But more importantly, there are more female than male millionaires in the youngest age brackets. In fact, In 40 years, all age brackets will have more female millionaires. But she asked the pertinent question; is the rise of female wealth created within existing businesses, or are they the creators of their own businesses? It would be interesting to have further research into this, has industry and the organisation of businesses aptly adapted to the rise of female workers – or are women generating their own wealth in new start-ups instead?

It would have been interesting to have more discussion regarding how to develop business to accommodate dynamic changes – how should businesses respond, what has worked in the past, and what businesses should look out for to be ahead of the next trend. This would have been particularly useful for the entrepreneurs in the room.

Carol gave us some insight into the other new trends – namely the youth economy. Industry must be aware of how the next generation are changing industry. There will be more millionaires under 30 than in all other age categories combined, and so both how businesses are run, and who the customers are is going to change dramatically.

Carol gave some insightful advice about how to ‘climb the ladder of success’ easier –  get involved earlier as junior board members –  utilise your youth, energy and new perspectives to drive a change in the workforce. Ultimately, Carol left us with an extremely positive message for all students; female and male alike.

Business Leaders Forum: Understanding gender diversity

On Monday local business leaders gathered for the Business Leaders Forum to listen to Professor Michelle Ryan talk about how business leaders and academics can work together to understand gender diversity, Jess Hurrell Business Development Officer from Research and Knowledge Transfer, was amongst them…

Michelle’s work with the Royal College of Surgeons provided the basis of her talk. She is always captivating to listen to and once again she had the audience in the palm of her hands.

The Royal College of Surgeons are concerned that only 7 per cent of women completing their surgeon training.  They approached Michelle to look into why this is the case and see if there might be any way to remedy this.

Michelle’s research group’s study identified that much of the reason for the drop in women completing their surgery training is due to their perceived fit in surgery and the number of women to look up to as role models.

There is also evidence to suggest that women’s ambition declines; however men’s may increase.

Michelle and her team spent many months completing a longitudinal study sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council and used the finding to work with the Royal College of Surgeons and put together a seminar series  and vodcast to disseminate the research and makes sure there is a provision of role models both male and female for trainee surgeons.

The usual question and answer was replaced by Michelle setting the audience the task of discussing a series of questions over dinner amongst their tables to feedback to the room during coffee.  These included whether members of the business community believe these issues exist within their own organisations, what we can learn from Michelle’s work and how we might redress the balance.

This led to a lively debate which included the idea of flexible and part time working and women taking time out to have children and then care of their children. Whether women are as ambitious as men. The issue of changes in generational beliefs and working habits and whether the best and most successful companies are addressing this problem already.

Another well made point included that not all women are good role models and that in actual fact women need good male role models as well.

Looking around the room it became apparent that women were prevalent in the audience and that maybe a lot of the men that usually attend Business Leaders Forum had opted out and the topic, choosing instead to send one of the women in the organisation instead!

One thing’s for sure, Michelle provided us all with food for thought amongst a backdrop of a beautiful red sky, a stunning view and chilli and cheesecake. She left our local business community with no doubt about the level of expertise that can be found ‘up there on top of the hill’ as someone so eloquently described us!

The next Business Leaders Forum is December 18. Please contact for more details on the next event and for information about joining Business Leaders Forum.

Corruption at work – the exception that proves the rule?

blog_corruption
Recent media coverage has highlighted that corruption in groups of people is an on-going phenomenon. The reporters at The News of the World were put under extreme pressure to bring in sensational stories to boost sales, and a culture had developed in which they resorted to acts that most people would regard as unacceptable. Not only that, the culture permeated throughout the entire organisation, allegedly from the chief executive and the editor-in-chief down.

Many of us know of someone who has cut corners or broken rules to meet business targets, be they time, budgetary or quality control. Pressure does not inevitably lead to a corrupt culture, but if other conditions are right (or rather, wrong), it can be a critical first step along the way. Once such behaviour has taken hold, it is difficult to root out, and is very likely to have disruptive consequences to a business and may affect its brand values.

But, is such culture exceptional? Previous research suggests that corruption in the workplace can occur when employees are put under pressure to meet difficult targets. And my research has shown that given specific conditions, pockets of corruption that contravene company norms and codes of ethics, can happen in any organisation and so is an ever-present and real business risk. Corruption, group behaviour, leadership and stress have all been studied in their own right, but my research brings these concepts together and focuses on small groups within organisations and the relationship between their corrupt behaviour and stress. Social Identity Theory (SIT) with its focus on both inter-group and intra-group behaviour provided a framework for the work.

SIT suggests that to support their group at such times, individuals who identify strongly with it (high identifiers) may be prepared to modify their behaviour. Although, people may find behaving in ways contrary to their normal inclinations stressful, SIT also suggests that high identification with a group can lower stress levels. What was not known was whether these previous findings would apply in the case of corruption, and whether stress is a factor in these acts.

A series of experimental studies was conducted in which the participants had the opportunity to behave corruptly. The results demonstrate that in all cases, this opportunity was taken, whether the participants were students or senior business executives. High identifiers behaved more corruptly than low identifiers and they experienced less stress.

SIT also suggests that effective leaders identify highly with their groups, are considered prototypical members, and so influence their groups’ behaviour. An important finding from this new research was that a leader’s influence extends to corrupt behaviour, implying that where a group operates with norms that are unique to it, the leader must be a fully accepted member of the group. Thus, leadership is contextual and corrupt group behaviour depends on a corrupt leader.

However, it may also be the case that the formal leader of a group is not, in actual practice, the leader in specific situations. The findings of my research showed that appointed leaders did not always influence the behaviour of the team members: in such cases, the participants were talked into corrupt or unethical behaviour by another member of each group. Such leaders not only behaved more corruptly than non-leaders, but they also both influenced and encouraged such behaviour in their team members. Non-leaders followed leaders in corrupt behaviour, even against their personal inclinations.

Although in general women were found to behave less corruptly than men, the behaviour of women leaders was not significantly different from other participants under normal conditions. However, under pressure for their teams to do well, they cheated more, particularly where the issues involved were ‘soft’ unethical ones, rather than where the answers were clear cut: to cheat or not to cheat. Qualitative analysis showed that corruption in groups is accompanied by rationalisation, but that there is no gender difference in its use. Group members accepted explanations suggested by their leaders, in order to justify their choices and decisions.

Therefore, although the initial trigger for corrupt behaviour may be pressure, when group identification is strong in a team, and conditions present the opportunity, corrupt behaviour may occur even without pressure. My research shows that it may even be fun!

So, although The News of the World is in the media spotlight at the moment, as an example of corrupt behaviour in groups of employees, this will not be the last: we only need to think of Enron, WorldCom, Siemens, our own MPs’ excessive expense claims, to mention a few, to remember that such behaviour is not exceptional.

Posted by Dr Katie Porkess (The Business School)

Regional science research collaboration

onyxpic

The other Friday (July 8th) a group of academics and PhD students from our College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences came together with similar groups from the universities of Bath and Bristol, along with industry representatives, to discuss a new partnership and idea that we’ve been considering: a graduate training alliance.

This mixed group of physicists and engineers had two things in common; firstly, a shared interest in physics-based ‘-onics’ – photonics, plasmonics, magnonics, spintronics, electronics, etc (hence the name Onyx), and secondly, a desire to engage more effectively with, and prepare our PhD students more effectively for, business and industry.

We have three aims for our nascent alliance: to bridge the innovation gap between universities and business more effectively in order to benefit the economy, to offer students a richer PhD experience and better preparation for entering the workplace after graduating, and to provide a forum for developing regional research collaborations.

The day was effectively a brainstorming session; after a presentation from Myrddin Jones of the Technology Strategy Board (“Funding for innovation is complex. We need to build a more effective environment for innovation & reduce risk for business in research”) we split into four action groups and discussed the issues and how the Onyx alliance might address them.

Discussion was lively and several important topics were brought up. These ranged from timing issues for PhD students, to confidentiality needs of the industry partners, and the inherently different needs and ideas of universities and industry – for example, PhD students like the idea of two month internships, while business would prefer them to last closer to two years. Likewise industry also wants to recruit students who are broad, flexible, with transferable skills, and who can apply themselves to a range of tasks and areas; PhD-level research necessarily focuses people very tightly – are these incompatible?

Over lunch we had an extended poster session from the PhD students, which enabled a more detailed discussion of the findings presented than is normally the case at workshops. The afternoon saw us delve more deeply into the idea of stakeholder engagement and industry relations, before summing up and deciding what the best way to move forward might be.

With the aim of getting things going as quickly as possible we’re already talking about running a conference event in the Autumn term so we can start to develop just what the Onyx graduate teaching alliance can and should offer.

Most of all we want to see how we can develop added value by bringing the Universities closer, in conjunction with forging stronger, relevant relations with business.

Posted by Professor Bill Barnes (Professor of Photonics, College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences)

New group spearheads innovation in Exeter

ExIST Launch BB MP sm

I’m pleased to be able to tell you that the University of Exeter is supporting ExIST – the Exeter Initiative of Science and Technology, a new scheme spearheaded by the Exeter Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which is also supported by Exeter City Council.

The initiative brings together a number of leading technological businesses from across the city, including Flybe, South West Communications, Graphic PLC, South West Metal Finishing, Landmark, TCL Global, the Met Office, Select Statistics, Sands Engineering and Ashwoods Automotive.

We’ll be looking to increase interaction and communication between members so that we can identify supply chain opportunities and raise awareness of Exeter’s position as a leading centre for science and technology.

ExIST’s chair, Robert McIlwraith, said ‘Exeter has a wide range of businesses that are working at the forefront of innovation: the ExIST group will not only heighten awareness that these companies already exist in this area, but will push this to the next level by encouraging high business growth in this industry and incoming investment to Exeter’.

The initiative will also be working with education providers to ensure that their students are equipped with the skills needed by business, which will improve job opportunities for young people in the city.

Around 100 members of the business community attended a lunch event to launch the initiative, organized by Exeter Chamber of Commerce and Industry, at the city’s Southgate Hotel last Friday (July 15th).

With work progressing well on the Exeter Science Park, another key citywide project the University is involved in, it’s an exciting time for science and technology based businesses in Exeter.

If you’re a local science and technology focused businesses and want to find out more about ExIST, please email

Posted by Sean Fielding (Director of Research & Knowledge Transfer)

Pictured are (left to right): Sara Randall Johnson, Flybe; Martin Kadhim, Ashwoods Automotive; Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter; Robin Jackson, Innovation Centre; Derek Phillips, Exeter Chamber; Sean Fielding, University of Exeter

Food security research at Exeter, by Professor Michael Winter

michaelwinterblogFood security, the availability of food and how accessible it is to populations, is one of the biggest global issues facing research today. Once again the world’s eyes are being turned to Africa as the worst drought there in 60 years threatens 10 million people with famine, whilst at the same time England and Wales together throw away 3.6 million tonnes of “waste” food every year. At Exeter we’re in the early stages of strategising how we research food security. We already have real strength in four important areas: crop health, ecosystem services, food behaviours, and food animals.

Regarding crop health we are strong in Biosciences, particularly around pathogens with world leading research on diseases affecting bananas and rice diseases which affect productivity and yield. We’re also doing work on a soil fungus, trichoderma, which is shown to activate immunity to plant pathogens.

Ecosystem services is coming to the fore with the Environment and Sustainability Institute in Tremough. Professor Kevin Gaston, the inaugural director, is very much focused on the ecosystems services approach and the role of biodiversity, and we have some excellent work going on in Geography around soils and soil erosion. In the social sciences we’re looking at how we can best apply the ecosystems approach to decisions about how to use the land. In the South West, for example, I am looking at how best to adapt land-based systems to deliver economic benefits and sustainability targets.

In the area of food behaviours, Exeter has a long tradition of researching producers of food, agricultural producers in particular. But we also have a history of looking at the food chain and we have some very interesting research in Geography and in Psychology on issues of consumption and consumers. We also have work in Economics, led by Steve McCorriston, on price volatility, one of the big issues facing those concerned about food security.

The final area, food animals, attracts interest from geographers and biologists and wihtin the humanities. And in Psychology we have some fascinating work on dairy cows behaviour and the best way to manage behaviour for maximum welfare and productivity.

Food security research is inherently interdisciplinary, cutting across biosciences, economics, psychology, politics and other social sciences, and beyond. This is why I’m so excited by it – I’m a bit of an interdisciplinary junkie, you might say! As a social scientist I love working with natural scientists, and I think that’s really where the future is for the University, allying our tremendous strength in humanities and the social sciences with the natural science developments we’re making.

Posted by Professor Michael Winter (Co-Director, Centre for Rural Policy Research)